MURRAY — For four years now, Murray Middle School teacher Vicky Dunlap has utilized one of America’s more popular TV shows for teaching lessons in the Media, Marketing and Money course she teaches.
That is why her students this week are entering the “Shark Tank.” No, the pitches they are making do not have hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars on the line. However, the exercise is designed to put them as close to the real thing as possible as they use their own ideas to determine the products for which they are asking for investment help.
“I was thinking that I teach a class called ‘Media, Marketing and Money.’ Well, ‘Shark Tank’ encompasses aaaaaaaall of those,” Dunlap said after Tuesday morning’s session in which three two-person teams brought ideas to a panel consisting of several Murray-Calloway County business leaders. “(The students) do watch (‘Shark Tank’) and I think they’ve been excited this week about the idea of building their own product, then trying to sell it to investors.”
The final two teams in the class will give their presentations today. That is sure to create more action like that seen on Tuesday, where things became quite competitive among the panelists, as is the case on the actual ABC program.
Take the day’s first product that was pitched, labeled “Jacket Unlimited” by the team of seventh graders Nick Clinton and Preston Key, who displayed a zipper system for jackets designed from magnets. It became a bidding war between Murray Independent School District Superintendent Coy Samons, Tim Stark, vice president of marketing for The Murray Bank, and Krista Doron Hatchett, co-owner of the Ribbon Chix clothing business.
Samons wanted to offer $250,000 for 25% ownership of the company. Stark offered $350,000 at 20%. Then Hatchett took her shot.
“OK, Mr. Stark pretty much stole all of my ideas (she had earlier told the students they needed to market for children, which Stark mentioned in his offer). He doesn’t bring anything new to the table, except for money … which I have,” Hatchett said. “I’m going to offer $350,000 for 15%. I have a lot more ideas in my pocket that I didn’t share, plus I think this is going to really be geared for moms, and I am one.”
Hatchett emerged the winner, but this gave a small taste of how competitive this became, even though the numbers being discussed were not real.
“It’s a valuable lesson for these kids. They learn to put a business plan together, they learn how to analyze different offers from people, they learn about profit and loss,” said Murray Bank CEO Bob Hargrove, who is participating in this exercise for the first time. “Being a numbers guy, I really like it, and that’s the perspective and angle I’m taking with it. Others have marketing or manufacturing expertise, which I don’t have, but the bottom line for these kids is that they’re going to be dealing with all of that if they go into a business some day.”
Dunlap said she has been impressed with the presentations so far. Tuesday’s pitches also included a specially-designed bag containing a phone charger that the user will be able to access no matter how messy the inside of the bag becomes. The other consisted of a simplified design for a window shade that hits over classroom door windows so intruders cannot see inside the room, such as what would be faced in a school lockdown.
The “Shark Tank” exercise is used once each semester of the school year, Dunlap said. This year’s panelists include four first-time participants: Hargrove; Thurmond Insurance owner Tim Thurmond; Jeremy Blackford of DevSource and Ron Watson of Sportable Scoreboards. Returning this year are Stark, Samons and Hatchett.